Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Piece of Collingwood's Past Maritime Past

A piece of Collingwood’s shipbuilding heritage is potentially poised to make a comeback. The steamship S.S. Norisle was built in Collingwood in 1946 and was used by the Owen Sound Transportation Company for their ferry service from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island from 1946 to 1974 when the Collingwood build Chi Cheemaun went into service. At the time of its retirement in 1974, the Norisle was the last steam powered passenger ship operating on the Great Lakes.
Destined to be scrapped, the Norisle was purchased for one dollar by one of the municipalities on Manitoulin Island. For the past thirty-four years the ship has been permanently moored in Manitowaning, Ontario during which time it’s primary use has been as a museum piece. With the ever increasing cost of upkeep, the ship was deemed to be a liability and thoughts were seriously given to sinking it as an attraction for scuba divers. Upon learning of the not so distinguishing end to this once proud ship, a group of volunteers have surfaced, intent on re-commissioning the ship as a cruise ship for tourists in the same vein as the steamship Segwin which plies the Muskoka Lakes out of Gravenhurst.
Work was started this summer to halt further deterioration of the vessel and a major environmental clean-up was completed to remove all the asbestos insulation used to wrap the extensive network of steam pipes. Much of the work has been completed at the hands of volunteers while some of the work required by professionals was provided at their cost. Further, steam power enthusiasts from across North American have offered to refurbish many of the various engine parts just for the sheer joy of doing so and seeing the ship pressed back into service.
Of particular interest to the writer is that I worked for the Owen Sound Transportation Company a couple of summers in my teens, docking the Norisle and its sister ship the Norgoma at the South Baymouth ferry dock on Manitoulin island where to this day I own a cottage. My duties also included driving vehicles on and off the ships a task done by car drivers themselves using the Chi Cheemaun ferry.
The Norisle may once again cruise the waters of Manitoulin Island visiting picturesque ports such as Killarney and others. I wish the volunteers every success in fulfilling their dream to bring back the romance and nostalgia of steam power passenger ship travel on the Great Lakes. For those interested in learning more about this project visit http://www.norisle.com/ or watch the You Tube video.

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Rick relocated to Collingwood from Toronto in 1985 through a transfer with Goodyear Canada. In 1987 Rick was recruited by a major client of Goodyear’s, managing their Canadian business based in Barrie before moving to Chicago in 1992 as Vice President of Sales & Marketing. Upon returning to Canada in 1996, Rick ran an industrial products manufacturing company in Stratford, Ontario. In 1998 Rick returned to Collingwood with his two children. Rick is a licensed real estate Broker with Royal LePAGE Locations North in Collingwood and holds his MVA designation (Market Value Appraiser-Residential). He is an active volunteer in the community serving several years on the Board of Directors with the Collingwood Chamber of Commerce as Treasurer, 6 years on the Board of Directors for the Southern Georgian Bay Association of REALTORS® of which he is the Past President (2008) and currently serves on a committee with the Ontario Real Estate Association. Rick is a diverse executive manager with extensive experience in strategic planning, manufacturing, finance, human resources and quality assurance management.